A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

My Photo
Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday Morning in the Mountains

I am not usually at work early on a Saturday morning, but this is what the view from my office door looked like at 7:30 AM today.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Teaching and Learning

From the wild sheep's fleece in olden times,
The wool was won and washed and spun.

Sheep gave the wool,
people gave it form.

With link on link
And row on row

The one long thread
Begins to show

How the work of our fingers
With patience transforms;

Now the wild sheep's fleece
Can clothe peoples' forms.

This verse, my adaptation of the original from Gertrude Madey, is the one I use with my second grade handwork class to close each lesson session. I am finding my work fun and rewarding, but the time for each lesson far too short. Through it all, children learn, and most especially in this situation is knitting about process. Stitch counting helps with math, sitting at one's desk, using both hands to concentrate on creating an object is a grounding and centering activity for the young child, and of course there is great excitement and pride of accomplishment at finishing a project.

Sara and I met this afternoon to review the curriculum I am piecing together; she taught at Live Oak Waldorf School for several years while her two sons, now 28 and 30, were in elementary...

We discussed the differences and similarities between the public version and work within the private Waldorf setting, as well as the changes that have taken place with a new generation of parents bringing children, and also needing for both to work full-time. There are far more separated families, for example.

I am very fortunate to have a group of parent helpers, fulfilling their volunteer hours that are required for their children to attend a public charter school of this type, with me through each and every lesson, and we still felt pretty overwhelmed as our group of 30 first-graders all made their first attempts at a garter stitch this morning. Out of that number, I was delighted to see that there were five with previous knitting experience, through their families, who were capably charging through three rows in the same time the very beginning students were struggling through their first few stitches.

Sara and some of the staff have also cautioned me to set limits on the out-of-class I devote, and so "correcting" will mainly take place during classes, so that I don't become a slave to re-doing, fixing, etc. Sara had several examples of her sons' stuffed animals, made during their early years, and a few "next step" projects for my second grade students, a few who are close to exhausting the steps taken in previous years.

Teaching is always an adventure involving staying a few steps ahead of your students, no matter how familiar the subject or how long one has been teaching it. Sara reflected on how much that is the case in teaching adults in the fiber arts as well. A wonderful, end-of-summer meeting of the minds at one of our lovely outdoor cafes in Nevada City, before winter sets in... thanks so very much for your generous gift of time, Sara.

A last note, to remind all who haven't done so yet... there is still time to enter my 375th Post Contest; I haven't gotten my new Typepad site ready to launch and am behind schedule, but the contest will take place on time:). There's also still plenty of time to join in the fun for the Twisted Knitters Dye-Spin-Knit Along, not that you have nothing to do!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawlette

As promised, I took advantage of the lovely autumn weather on the first day of fall to capture a few views of my completed shawlette. The pattern is available online from Susan Lawrence. I started my version the day I returned home from getting to hang out with Susan and Margene at Great Basin Fiber Fair, using yarn that Margene had dyed under Susan's tutelage in the spring. The colors reflected the Utah landscape for me, especially the trees whose leaves were starting to turn color, and the completed shawlette will wrap me in memories of that wonderful visit and all the fun we had at our spindle class together... so I renamed my personal version "Echoes of Hugs".

Glenn took this photo for me, with our Forest City high country house in the background.
The shawlette is light and lovely and a great accent with fall outfits.

Although the color doesn't quite come through accurately (it misses the pinky sunset shades that led Margene to dub this "Merlot"), the detail is very good.

This shot gives a truer idea of the lovely colors in the yarn.

The pattern was an absolute joy to knit, easy to see unfolding as I went along, and short enough to be finished quickly (just over two weeks of about an hour a day). The instructions include a great tutorial for those who have never knitted lace before, and although I have knitted quite a few lacy items over the years, this is the first finished piece that done in laceweight. I loved the edging, which is a creative extension and finishing off of the pattern, and the two-row bind-off allowed the edging to remain elastic, while being easy to complete. The points all finished blocking very nicely!

In fact, I loved the pattern so much that I started a second one, a gift, in a dusty green Misti Alpaca, re-learning that not all laceweights are the same, as this second version needs a needle size smaller, which I will have to pick up tomorrow. I highly recommend Susan's pattern for those beginning to think about gift knitting!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Smoky Saturday Sky

This Saturday sky is pretty ugly with brown smoke (that smudgy layer just above the mountains), although the visibility has increased since 24 hours of high winds blew our smoke somebody else's way... a shot taken from the pass on Mountain House between the North Yuba River drainage (which we are looking up) and the Oregon Creek drainage (behind me while I was taking the photo). The Bassetts fire is about 8 miles as the crow flies, now 70% contained, but not after threatening homes, camps and resorts in the Lakes Basin area since Tuesday afternoon.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Twisted Knitters and a Shawl Drying

Yes, I DID finish my shawl and no, I am NOT posting a picture of my Forest Canopy shawlette that is blocking today up in my studio; I am making you wait to see a real photo shoot of it, to take place this weekend.

I just wanted to give you a heads up to check Margene's announcement about a neat, new KAL and consider joining in the fun and sporting the snazzy button I just put up! I will be linking to the blog for this KAL just as soon as it is ready, so check back regularly to watch us all dye, spin, and knit together.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Forest Canopy Is Closing In On Finish!

This is one of those teaser posts where my time would be better spent in knitting, as the lovely Forest Canopy shoulder shawl, from Susan Lawrence's pattern, is almost done, in fact I have only a few more border rows and blocking!

Why am I typing and not knitting, you ask? Well, I have learned the hard way to faithfully follow the "No Lace After 9 PM" rule, having found that my eyes and my concentration both weaken and mistakes happen (that ugly "M" word). However, getting caught up on email and blogs after 9 PM works pretty well... I also had to read all the latest fire news for California as the smoke was thick today from a fire at the crest of Yuba Pass, east of Downieville, forcing one dear friend from my crafts co-op to evacuate with her husband to their other house in Reno (for their health from the smoke; their house is safe so far).

I will probably squeeze in one, last purl row before bed, and finish the edging tomorrow, so watch for a FO by this weekend (doing a little happy dance:)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Making Knitting Needles

There are many sites on the Internet that will give you directions for making your own knitting needles, and that is not what I am going to do... I do want to fill you in on the great job my group of 30 first grade handwork students have done in making their first set of needles.

Of course, they have had plenty of assistance from their teacher, who posted a photo last week of cutting apart the hardwood dowels into 10-inchs lengths. What I didn't know then was that the wood is actually a very nice quality, and did not require much in the way of sanding.

The next step after cutting 60 lengths was to use one of the school's pencil sharpeners to rough out points. Then, the students spent their handwork periods last week and today sanding their needles, until the points were smooth. Now, using a pencil sharpener and sandpaper has made me far more appreciative of my bamboo and ebony needles - some of the points are "pointier" or "scoopier" (those of you who have used these adjectives to describe your favorite needles will feel the lack thereof immediately), and then again, some are a bit too rounded for my liking.

However, looking over last year's crop of needles, still in ready use by my second grade students, showed that the needles had almost all developed the patina that comes from being clutched in a pair of small hands, and that the students turned out excellent projects with them.

I spent most of yesterday evening doing some finish sanding, and getting ready to glue these lovely beads on the ends; I found that 11 of my students had finished both of their needles, while 11 more had only a bit of sanding on the second one to reach their goal. I also discovered that I had grabbed the wrong size of glue sticks (even though the packages were hanging on a display with the hot glue gun I bought last week, they were too big).

Here is the assembly line set-up, to make sure that each student had a pair of matching beads and all needles were ready for glueing.

Our class today went well, with most students having the increased motivation to finish their pair of needles, since those who were done sanding got to pay a visit to the handwork room (where older students have their classes, and where the WOOL is kept on shelves, displayed in color groupings of the rainbow).

These students brought back bags of many colors, and helped roll up small balls. We now have a large basket full of an array of colors, waiting for the lessons in How To Knit, and much practice, as the students make their first project, a striped case to hold their flutes when not in use for music lessons!

Those pairs of needles that are finished have been tied together and are ready for me to present to the students at the next class, on Wednesday.
Don't they look nice, resting in my Booga Bag? There will be a little story, and a knitting verse to help them remember the steps as well, at our next lesson.

I have to say that it really warms my heart to pass on my love of fiber (or is it an addiction?) I am also grateful that the school has a well-organized parent volunteer program, as I have had at least two parent helpers for each class period! The time still flies by, and I will be working all year to contain the after-hours portion to a reasonable amount of time, so that I can get to my own knitting. After spending five hours of weekend time over the past two weekends on the needle construction, it's time for me to have some quality moments with my Forest Canopy shoulder shawl.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

This week's Saturday sky features the view to the northwest that I get to see in the evenings while driving home from Nevada City....today's sky was hazy, as fires continue in California. Yesterday's clouds and low temperatures have passed, but it is doubtful we will see the hot weather of summer again.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why Spin?

In the midst of developing a new, back-to-school routine, I have had a few episodes of insomnia, one of which was filled with the ideas for this post... It all started when I read Katherine's line "Spinning is the new Knitting", and started mulling over why there would be so many recent converts.

Remember hearing "Knitting is the new Yoga"? I believe that the attraction for so many knitters was that you could achieve a meditative state, reflecting on the process of yarn moving through fingers while still also experiencing creative juices warming up, and turning out finished objects that were sources of pride. Of course, not being a "new" knitter when this giant resurgence started five years ago, I am only projecting ...

Now, spinning being something I have recently (and finally) successfully gotten a handle on, gives me the insight of a beginner and why there is such an attraction for me. When I first tried my hand at spinning, back at age 17 (with a drop spindle that only dropped), I was in a "do-it-yourself-from-scratch" phase in my life, learning lots of new and earthy skills. My first wheel followed on the heels of the drop spindle, with greater success, but still not much to write home about. I do have some of that early yarn woven into a Navajo rug sampler...

When I tried again, about a dozen years ago, I was knitting profusely by then, and wanted to extend my efforts into spinning, but not with the enthusiasm I have right now. My efforts quickly waned, as carding and spinning took too much time away from knitting.

This time, I have decided that I would mainly stick with already cleaned and prepared fibers, allowing me to lose less knitting time. I still get a lot of hands -on spinning time that way.

While tossing and turning the other night, I came up with this list of why to turn over some of that precious time to spinning:

1. Spinning gets you deeply in touch with the fiber. It helps you see and feel the difference between, say, a Corriedale and a Navajo-Churro (sheep that were originally raised to produce wool for rug weaving). The yarn shops have enlightened us as to the value of merino over other wools, or the exotic-ness of alpaca or cashmere, but I am much closer to the source (i.e., the animal's recently-cropped locks) when spinning and seeing how the fibers differ in length, crimp, and feel, as well as opportunities for choices about how to handle these differences in turning fiber into yarn.

2. Planning a project from start to finish, including selecting the right fiber choice for the desired yarn is deeply creative and deeply rewarding. I get to make the decisions every step of the way, rather than relying on what is readily available. I can even decide to dye the fiber or resultant yarn in the color blend of my own choosing.

3. Spinning is very much about process, even more so than knitting. You watch and watch as the yarn spins its way out of the magic triangle where fiber is turning into yarn, right through your fingertips, and detach yourself from when the results will be done, or even what you will make next. I am much more in the moment spinning than in many of the other creative processes in my life.

4. There are great wooden spindles (or wheels, if that's what you want) that turn that mass of fiber into the yarn you were dreaming of, and there is the challenge of learning the steps and choices to be successful in using them. This keeps my mind alert and ever-learning, and keeps me from aging!

If you haven't considered trying spinning, stop next time you are at a fiber fair, and take someone up on their offer to let you give it a try!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

375th Post and a Contest

Yes, I am still finding it hard to believe that I have actually come up with varied and interesting content for 375 posts!


There have been fun adventures, such as Death Valley, Black Sheep and Estes Park. There has been lots of Sierra scenery, knitting, and of course, burros, and even wild mustangs! There have been lots of good times and sad ones with my family. What I never would have guessed when I started on this blogging adventure was how many new and wonderful friends there would be! I have been fortunate to get to meet several of the bloggers I regularly read and exchange emails with, and some of my contest swag, displayed below, is even the handiwork of fellow knit bloggers.

Contest Rules

I decided that there would be multiple contests in honor of my 375th post, all centered around my desire to do a blog make-over in light of making it this far. Looks like I'm in it for the long haul, so I am sprucing up and customizing my online image (heck, I even plan to go shopping for new clothes next weekend, and might get a haircut or wax my eyebrows:). Later this month, I will be moving over to Typepad and introducing a truly personal blog-look.

Everyone who emails me before 9:00 PM (PDT) on September 30th (email: dyespringcolorATgmailDOTcom) will be entered into a random-number generated drawing.

However, there will be a special prize drawing for those of you submitting the best and most useable tips to help me make this changeover... I will be needing a button, a banner, and some changeover advice, as well as would appreciate those personal comments and pointers that show you are familiar with my blog and what I choose to write about, and how I can incorporate that into my new format. I don't fully understand Typepad yet, having only used it as a guest author, but can see that I have more possibilities ... I would like to add a gallery of FOs and WIPs to make things less redundant. These tips should also be sent to the same email address. So what's in it for you?

Contest Swag

This photo shows some of the prizes I collected on my trip last week, including soaps from Blessed Juno, a bee tape measure and a sheep ornament, as well as a beautiful abalone shawl pin (the grand prize in the "tips" drawing). In back is a skein of Knitpicks merino fingering, specially dyed by moi, with cochineal, which will accompany a few small other prizes for the "random" drawing. At the very front is a DPN case from Nana Sadie Rose, the business run by one of my longest-running blog buddies, Knitnana.

This photo shows more prizes: the accessory bag in back is quilted and sewn by fellow Mountain Harvest Crafts Co-op member, Peggy (and we will have a web presence just as soon as I can get to it, but she is only licensed to make a small amount of these bags each year, so they are only available by coming to Downieville - or winning this one!)

So what are you waiting for?! Enter now!

Status of WIPs

I spent part of the weekend diligently working on my two favorite WIPS.

Bianca's back is almost to the armholes.

This sweater will grow quickly, which is good, as I love the feel of the yarn and look forward to wearing it often, but knitting it is a bit harder on the hands than some things...

Susan's lovely Forest Canopy shoulder shawl, renamed "Echos of Hugs" by me in honor of what wonderful friends she and Margene (who dyed the lovely "Merlot" colorway, with Kool-Aid stolen from Susan, I hear), has been my favorite companion, spending time with me during Saturday's shift at the crafts coop... I have progressed to the point where pictures are no longer and it looks like a beautifully-colored blob. If you have not tried laceweight yet, this is the perfect pattern to do it with - the pattern is easy to follow, and to 'read' as you knit (remember the lace maxim: "admire your lace early and often"), and the shawlette makes up quickly, so that you can wear it and get lots of compliments on your awesome knitting skills, before leaping into more complicated lacework (you know you will).

There was also homework, as I began my handwork teaching job for Yuba River Charter School on Wednesday, only to learn that my first graders had not yet gotten the supplies to make their sets of knitting needles...

That's my thumb, balancing the hacksaw while cutting one of 60 lengths (can you see the dowel held in the wooden vise?) that the children will begin sanding tomorrow during their lesson time with me... betcha didn't know I could manage basic woodworking skills too... me neither!

Teacher's homework also includes fixing mistakes. This basket, perched behind the pickup's front seat, contains my second graders' workbags, with needles they made last year, and some have WIPs from the end of first grade (yup, the WIP pressure starts early).

The piece on top is destined to be a recorder case and one of my more advanced students brought it to me for another student, tellling me "There's a dropped stitch, but it's too far down for me to get" (isn't that too sweet!). This basket represents the work bags of 29 students, sitting atop a pile of small, colored balls of Lambs Pride bulky wool yarns, for those ready to start a new project.

You will notice that there was no sky photo this Saturday... our usually bright and blue sky has been obscured by lots of smoke from a big wildland fire in Foresthill (as well as a smaller one closer on Thursday, still putting out smoke, although controlled), and I just couldn't bear to take a photo. Plus, there were air quality warnings to stay inside! DD and I took an late afternoon hike along the North Yuba for about a half hour, as we needed the exercise and the conditions have improved today; keep your fingers crossed that things don't get any worse here in California, where there are dozens of fires burning. DH is on the Day Fire in SoCal; Ventana Wilderness, working long hours but relatively safe, while one son is on the Foresthill one...

Friday, September 08, 2006

R is for Roving

Spinning is all about the fibers, which is why this letter in the alphabet couldn't have arrived at a better time! My main purpose in going back to Utah for the Great Basin Fiber Fair was to take Elizabeth Dailey's Advanced Spindling class.... and it was well worth it.

I had already spent Saturday spinning up some merino top I had brought with me, using my original "toy wheel spindle". I was determined to spin up the "Pinedale" colorway... the total amount was only one ounce, and I wanted to complete it before going on to anything else. Ironically, one of the things Elizabeth pointed out to all of us is how much slipperier top (where all the fibers are going the same direction) is to spin than Roving, or carded wool (where the fibers are going different directions, but cling more to each other).

Elizabeth gave us this sampler pack to teach us about the different fiber qualities and how to approach spinning them; we tried different weights and styles of spindles for each with her guidance. The variegated blue shiny stuff in the middle is top, as is the red mixture above it. The fuzzy greys are good examples of Roving.

I had already visited with Elizabeth and Bart (aka, Greensleeves Spindles)Saturday, purchasing the spinning equipment I had so looked forward to selecting in person. Most of you don't know this about me, in fact even DH didn't, but I have a bit of a fetish for hardwoods, and fiber-related items made from them, making me a natural spindle consumer. I loved the tulipwood, and selected a one-yard niddy noddy and a large-whorled, long-shafted spindle from this wood, as well as a nostepinne (which is the all-pink version of tulipwood, dubbed "bubblegum"), used to wind center-pull balls.

I just realized typing that sentence that I could easily slip into erotic poetry about these lovely wood items, but this is a G-rated blog.... and Connie, another member of our class, really has the edge on all of us when it comes to collecting spindles. She was carrying them around Elizabeth's booth like flower bouquets and wouldn't own up to how many she actually has....

Tulipwood niddy noddy and nostepinne and Flagship Lizzy Kate in walnut.

The other item I wanted from Greensleeves Spindles was Elizabeth's own invention to address the task of trying to ply two or more single yarns together - the Lizzy Kate. This device allows the spindles to stand, with their respective threads through the top, to be plied tangle-free together onto a new (hence the need for larger) spindle. I knew I would be receiving a student spindle (very high quality all the same) from Elizabeth along with our other course materials the next day, so the only other spindle I purchased was an aromatic cedar spindle from Gabe Jaramillo, which I used to try out some very nice white Lincoln cross Roving, from family sheep farmers in southern Utah.

This is the sum total of purchases: three spindles from l to r: Mjolinar from Greensleeves, Basic from Greensleeves, and aromatic cedar from Jaramillo, standing in my Lizzy, surrounded by packets of camel down, white Lincoln, Spinderella's thrums, and gift mohair/wool Roving (brighter blue). The lone ball of yarn ready to go is some lovely Merino Oro teal laceweight, purchased at the Wool Cabin for Mim's Hidcote Garden shawl.

I took my new Greensleeves spindle and began to spin a very lovely mohair/wool Roving that Margene had given me the night before, while visiting.... Karen located a bargain on camel down, so I also snatched up three ounces for $3.00, to try after I had been enlightened as to how best to approach this exotic fiber at the class.

Meanwhile, Margene and Susan were busy all day Satuday, dyeing pounds of Roving, along with their classmates... here are photos of the snakes in the grass drying in the hot sun.

Here, Susan is painting on the colors for her fiery Roving.

On Sunday, our knowledge grew by leaps and bounds, under the tutelage of

Elizabeth, our most illustrious teacher, describing the virtues of some of the spindles laid out before her on the table.

Susan spins up some lofty yarn.

Margene, concentrating on her Roving.

We tried out Coopworth, Shetland, Romney, Corriedale, South Alps, Polworth, cashmere, pure silk, silk blend, merino top, alpaca, and even quivit!

I know you are wondering if any knitting got done throughout this spinning odyssey; here is my third Trekking sock (Mim's Simple Trekking sock pattern, although I shortened the leg a bit), which I finished while staying at Margene's and photographed at the stream running through Sundance on our outing Monday. The match to it was also cast on and several inches accomplished.

I also received this lovely laceweight from Margene while we had a fun time poring over her stash (it's not as big as you thought, but just right for her). She named this yarn Merlot, but it especially reminds me of the trees on her mountains whose leaves are beginning to change colors.

It quickly started becoming this.... Susan's Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl (see her September 1st post, if you just can't stand it and have to buy the pattern right away), which I have re-named the "Echoes of Hugs" shawl in honor of these two dear friends that I would not have met without my blog!

Which brings me to the 375th post contest ... I had miscounted because of a sneaky draft post that had hidden in my list, so this is actually post #374. I will be running a contest through the month of September in honor of the upcoming and promised magic number (well, it is impressive to me!), so come back by for details.

Finally, in other news I want to let you all know that my birthday is coming right up - in fact it is October 11th, which qualifies me for entry into Bev's October Birthday Swap. If you know anyone else who wants to join us, send them on over.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Great Basin Fiber Fair

Great Basin was all about fiber friends for me! I had such a wonderful time reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones.

Susan picked me up at the airport and whisked me through two of the SLC Stitch n Bitch grrls' favorite LYS, and then we got to spend parts of Saturday and Sunday together, including our Advanced Spindling class Sunday morning. She also won a first prize for one of her Mountain Stream scarves made from her handspun! Margene has a wonderful photo of it here.

Susan and Margene stir their dyepot during their Saturday class.

Margene and her DH, Smith, were the most wonderful, considerate and nuturing hosts! Besides all of the fiber fun, they also toured me around Salt Lake, finding some of the best Italian food at Canella's Friday night with their dear friend, Creek, and an awesome Mexican food dinner at the Rio Grande Cafe, located downtown, on Saturday night (not to mention that Smith is wicked with the bar-be-que). We also toured the backcountry east of SLC, all the way over to Sundance on Labor Day, and you can see Margene's wonderful photos here.

I also got to hang out with Laurie while she sold her fabulous soap like hotcakes. I wish she lived next door, so we could sit out on the porch and have a beer together every now and then. Of course, the soaps all smelled heavenly - I think some of the best I have found, and you know how unbiased I am... so go over and buy some from her!

Lots of the Utah grrls made it to the Fiber Fest, and I met up once again with Anne, who was my Better Pal last winter, as well as a traveling companion to Estes Park in June. Karen also spent part of the afternoon with us in the soap and t-shirt booth, working on a sock from her handspun... it was Karen's beautiful spinning during our group sleepover in June that got me hooked on spinning, so it was good to be able to thank her and show her my progress.

Miriam was also there, with her loving and tolerant husband Caleb (he smiled a lot but wasn't mashing fibers like the rest of us). Her sister had a booth selling many delightful crocheted items and displaying some of Mim's work, as well as her prizes and ribbons from recent fairs.

The shawl at the back is her newest design, Hidcote Garden, which she entered in the Utah State Fair, opening today.

I met so many new friends, too....

Katherine's shirts are the best knitting-related design I have seen, so I had to buy a brown one and a light pink one. She had very few left over, but if you can't resist either, pay a visit to her blog and put in your request. Plus, we connected over geographical family history! I almost felt bad, making her homesick for the California foothills.

Elizabeth Dailey, of Greensleeves Spindles, and her husband Bart (who liked my name so much that he asked permission to use it in a book!), more Utah bloggers and/or SNBers, including Terry, Nicole, Anne, Bonnie (who I had met in June) and Dave.

And a new friend who taught me how to spin on a 250-year old great wheel... awesome experience that put me in touch with the days when most yarns were made that way here in the U.S.

Yes, I did make some purchases, thanks for asking, and they will be on display tomorrow, as well as photos of the dye class and spindling class. I also grabbed some prizes for y'all, as my 375th post is right around the corner, and there WILL be a contest.... stay tuned!